Despite a valiant effort from all five players, the Kentucky men’s golf team’s bid for an NCAA Championships berth fell just short in Wednesday’s final round at The University Club in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Cats were a mere stroke off the pace of a two-team tie for a playoff for the coveted fifth spot and a bid into the NCAA Championships next week.
Three players earned top-20 individual finishes to highlight the week for the Cats, who fended off numerous averse situations to put themselves in a position to make a run.
“This one is tough,” UK head coach Brian Craig said. “I feel for these guys. We battled our hearts out and came up one shot short. We put all kinds of pressure on the course today, but the putter did not cooperate.”
UK’s pressure on the course began with McDaniel’s best round of the tournament at 1-under par to finish in a tie for seventh overall. It marked his second straight top-10 finish at an NCAA Regional event and his team-leading fifth top-10 finish of the season.
The Manchester, Kentucky, native played the opening nine holes at even par, recovering from a bogey on the par-four second with a birdie at No. 6. A birdie on the par-four 14th was the difference in his red-numbered scorecard for the day. McDaniel concludes his junior season with 17 par-or-better rounds.
Junior Cooper Musselman earned a tie for 12th following a 75 in his third round of the tournament. It was an impressive finish to the season for a mainstay at the top of the lineup. A season ago, Musselman turned in a tie for 56th in the NCAA Regional. However, that turnaround should be no surprise to UK fans. Musselman has garnered seven total top-20 finishes for the year, including four top-10 finishes in perhaps the most complete and consistent season of his career.
UK’s third player among the top-20 individual finishers was sophomore Lukas Euler. Euler began the tournament with a 76 and followed with rounds of 72 and 74 to tie for 17th overall. Euler had three birdies on the back nine to combat three bogeys and finish the final nine holes of the day at even par. The highlight of his round was a chip-in birdie at the par-three 16th. Euler notched four top-20 finishes on the season and earned a top-20 finish in both NCAA Regional appearances in his career.
“I love this team and so appreciate their efforts this year,” Craig said. “We will miss our lone senior, Stephen Stallings, and his tremendous dedication to this team.”
Stallings rounded out his career with a tie for 22nd overall on the individual leaderboard. He carded three birdies on the day, including two over a three-hole stretch from No. 11 to No. 13.
The Louisville, Kentucky, native appeared in 25 total tournaments in his career, including three-consecutive Southeastern Conference Championship rosters and consecutive appearances in the NCAA Championship. Stallings steadily improved from year-to-year and produced the most decorated season of his career during his senior campaign. He posted a 73.4 stroke average and had four top-20 individual finishes, which includes a career-best tie for seventh at the Bearcat Invitational this fall.
Redshirt sophomore Fred Allen Meyer – who missed the majority of his first two seasons with the Cats due to various injuries – appeared in every tournament this season. Meyer posted a round of 75 in his final round of the NCAA Regional on Wednesday, once again saving his best performance for last. Meyer charted four top-20 finishes on the season and a pair of top-10 feats. Meyer birdied on three straight holes on 15, 16 and 17 to conclude his tournament in quality fashion.
“I am already excited about the potential of next year’s team,” Craig said. “It will be the deepest team we have ever had and that competition is exactly what we need.”
Kentucky will return four of its five starters who appeared in both the SEC Championship and NCAA Regional. Musselman and McDaniel, who combined for 13 total top-20 finishes, will headline the returners coupled with four additional players in Evan Cox, Allen Hamilton, Matt Liston and Fadhli Soetarso, who saw action in 2016-17.
The University Club
Baton Rouge, La.
7 Kentucky (292, 297, 295 – 884, +20)
T7 Chip McDaniel (73, 75, 71 – 219, +3)
T12 Cooper Musselman (68, 77, 75 – 220, +4)
T17 Lukas Euler (76, 72, 74 – 222, +6)
T22 Stephen Stallings (75, 73, 75 – 223 , +7)
T69 Fred Allen Meyer (85, 85, 75 – 245, +29)
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